I had heard of effective microorganisms (EM) before and I had the impression that I would be paying a lot for something quite simple. I am always suspicious of things which require money rather than knowledge and effort. Thanks to Itai Dolev Hauben from Costa Rica and Rico Zook from New Mexico, I discovered that my suspicion of EM was unfounded.
According to Itai, the man who developed the powerful cocktail of organisms which came to be known as effective microorganisms, Teruo Higa, wanted the information about how to cultivate this melange to be spread far and wide. Itai gave a great workshop on the first day of the International Permaculture Convergence in which he outlined a recipe for EM. Rico coined a name for the cocktail which I really like —-indigenous microorganisms, or IMOs. Rico’s name captures some of the significance of this process —- it can be done by anyone with locally available materials to cultivate a tremendously useful set of microorganisms which are indigenous to a particular place. It is to the great credit of Teruo Higa that he recognised that such a powerful process ought not be kept from anyone.
Why are IMOs Useful?
IMOs cultivated according to this process are extremely versatile. It seems that there are few things which are not benefited by their presence. They can be
- … used as a foliar or soil spray to promote plant health,
- … added to animal feeds for healthier animals,
- … added to a a composting toilet or kitchen food waste bin to stop bad smells and aid decomposition, and
- … added to pond water to maintain living, healthy water.
How to Cultivate IMOs
Now for the recipe. This one is for a 55 gallon drum batch. The same proportions can be used for a batch of any size:
- 25 L of mulch, manure, soil, leaf litter and healthy (white / off white) fungal strands from healthy ecosystems
- 25 L of rice semolina (or equivalent)
- 25 L wheat bran
- 25 L powdered charcoal
- 50 L rice husk / wheat husk OR softwood sawdust
- 200 g bakers’ / brewers’ yeast
- 2 L raw milk
- 3 - 5 L molasses / cane sugar / brown sugar / silan (or equivalent)
- Combine ingredients and check that the moisture level is that of a squeezed out sponge (like an ideal compost moisture level).
- Put in drum / container with an airlock (simple plans for this soon).
- Allow to ferment for approximately one week or until bubbling stops (time will vary with climatic conditions).
- Open drum. The mix should have a pleasant smell.
- Dry the mix slowly in the shade for later use; use directly on soil, in animal feed, kitchen waste or composting toilet; or make up a liquid mix (1 kg dry mix, 1/2 litre molasses, 20 L water) for foliar or soil application.